DOCTOR WHO SERIES 7: EPISODE 4 - THE POWER OF THREE
Air Date: Saturday 22 September **
Channel: BBC One (UK), BBC America (US)
Starring: Matt Smith, Karen Gillan, Arthur Darvill, Mark Williams, Jemma Redgrave, Steven Berkoff
Reviewed by Helen Henderson
The Ponds have a big decision to make amidst a very unusual invasion.
From the pen of Dinosaurs on a Spaceship episode author Chris Chibnall, comes the underwhelming The Power of Three. A nod to the Russell T. Davies era that came before it, this episode was a tale focused on ‘normal’ life as opposed to the hectic knockabout way of things when travelling with the Doctor. With a distinct nod to the old James lyrics “If I hadn’t seen such riches, I could live with being poor”, the Ponds are attempting to live their lives in normality while deciding whether the constant travelling is really for them anymore. It shines an interesting light on a concept not yet seen in Who - can companions live a double life of travelling with the doctor whilst carrying on their normal everyday happenings? With the ability for the Doctor to hypothetically return companions to the moment he picked them up it is surprising this intriguing idea hasn’t been explore before. It is lended extra relevance being widely known as the Ponds’ penultimate episode – and further lends to the ambiguity of their eventual fate - will their final scenes be fatal or a final decision to end their travels?
The episode kicked off (including this seasons trademark altering of the title logo, this time being covered in cubes) with Amy’s comparison of their lives travelling with the Doctor and their everyday lives with their jobs and friends. After years of sightseeing with the Doctor, he chose to stay with them after the seemingly benign invasion of a series of small black boxes that didn’t seem to have any sort of purpose, spreading across the globe with humans taking them into their lives. A year after their appearance, a series of strange events began to occur with the cubes at the centre of the mystery. With the introduction of Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart’s daughter Kate Stewart as the head of the Science division in UNIT and some odd goings on in Rory’s hospital – what is the secret of the peculiar cubes?
The enemy of the piece were the Shakri, supposedly the ‘pest controllers’ of the universe, believed to be a myth in Time Lord history to keep youngsters in check. The Shakri were apparently slaves to something called the Tally which seemed to be poorly understood even by the Doctor and appeared to be related to an event called the Reckoning or Judgement Day. This is the first time that they have appeared in Doctor Who, so don’t be too surprised if they rear their heads again in the future. If so, they may want to re-approach their technology if they are to encounter the Doctor again.
The appearance of Kate Stewart (Jemma Redgrave) was a touching tribute to Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, also a tribute to Nicholas Courtney who died in 2011, and as a character she was an interesting addition to the show, leaving hope that she will reappear in the show at a later date. The Brigadier was a close friend to the Doctor and one of the founders of the Unified Intelligence Taskforce (UNIT) who first appeared in Who episode The Web of Fear with second Doctor Patrick Troughton, and was referenced as having died peacefully in his sleep in the Eleventh Doctor episode The Wedding of River Song. It was a nice dip into Who history and showed that even the most modern of episodes are at times doing a solid job of unifying the nearly 50 years of character involvement and development with the doctors aids and accomplices.
Amy and the Doctor had an emotional moment together discussing the future as it pertained to them and their lives, and not in a timey wimey way. The Doctor explained that Amy and Rory would always be special to him and as Amy was the first face that the Eleventh Doctor’s face had seen, she was forever engraved on his hearts (deliberate misspelling there as fans will understand). The mystery of the cubes in this episode was somewhat overshadowed by the lead up to the farewell to Amy and Rory and sadly the end of this episode may be considered to be a huge anti-climax that was only boosted minimally by the final moments.
As before, Rory’s Dad Brian (Mark Williams) was truly a highlight with his charm and meticulous attention to detail making him seem almost the perfect companion for the Doctor. The heartfelt conversation where Brian asked the fate of other companions was the actions of a concerned father but also of a man who knew that life with the time lord must be something to treasure but potentially perilous. Steven Berkoff brought a suitably terrifying turn as the Shakri, his speech something of horror and awe.
In all, the episode started very well but many fans may feel short changed by the rather rapid finish, plot holes and the loose ends that were not exactly tied up well. For example, the probability of humans taking the boxes into their homes in these modern times, full of fear and paranoia, is surely unlikely? Leaving baggage unattended can result in it being removed and destroyed so it seems quite improbable that faced with tiny black boxes everywhere that people would willingly take them into their lives without knowing what they were first. While serving as a tribute to the Ponds and giving an indication of how the companions live their lives without the Doctor, The Power of Three was a welcome return to the emotional soap opera style episodes of the past with a little popular culture thrown in, but it wasn’t a particularly exciting adventure with the vitality and pace that fans may have come to expect from the Steven Moffat era. There were some nice little nods to previous episodes such as the scene where Rory, Amy and the Doctor are found to be hiding under the bed in Henry VIII bed chambers, having mentioned this in A Town called Mercy. Time travel is a complicated business.
With Amy and Rory receiving a proper send off, this is fairly unprecedented in Nu-Who history having essentially a series of episodes dedicated to their finality, and next weeks The Angels take Manhattan will surely be the culmination of this and hopefully a fitting farewell to the Ponds. With the return of River Song, anything could happen...and probably will!
(A)MUSINGS RATING - 6 out of 10
For more news, updates and exclusive content from (A)musings, be sure to 'like' our Facebook page and also follow us on Twitter!
** The Power of Three is available for repeat viewing on BBC iPlayer